Extracting the honey
If it is your first year of beekeeping, you may not get a harvest but once you have overwintered your own hives, you should get some each year.
After you have brought your supers home – you need to ensure that all the windows are closed so no bees can get in. For the first few years, I ended up with honey all over the kitchen, floor, press units etc. I found it better to put down some newspapers and to wear little disposable foot covers. You need to ensure that your kitchen and work surfaces are clear and perfectly clean. Keep in mind that your honey might either be sold or given away to friends and family and must comply with the Food Safety Authority rules for food production. Also, bee keepers should be registered with the dept. of agriculture as food producers.
The Beekeepers Ideal Honey House
There are two types of extractors – tangential and radial. Usually your association will have one that you can borrow. This is a good idea for the first few years until you have an idea of how much honey you will produce.
There are also manual and electric. You can try the manual ones for the first year and then after that, many people prefer to wait for the electric one.
To Uncap the Honey
All your ripe frames of honey are covered with a wax seal to prevent spoilage. You need to uncap the wax before you place the frames in the extractor. You can use either an uncapping fork or a long serrated knife. I find that using a knife is easier but I always cut down, away from myself in case the knife slips.
To make it easier, I also have a jug of boiling water into which I stand two long knives. The boiling water heats them up and makes them glide over the cappings a little more easily. I have a piece of kitchen roll that stays there to dry off the knife before each use as I do not want to introduce any water to the honey. Then I switch over to the other knife so I am always using a heated knife. You can buy electric versions of this but it is not necessary if you are only do a few supers.
These cappings should be falling down into a basin and away from the frame. These can be dealt with separately later on.
After the frames have been uncapped, they can be placed in the extractor. The aim of this is to try and balance the frames. In the radial extractor which is like the spokes of a wheel, if you place a very heavy frame in one spoke, then you need to swing the spindle around and place a similar weight one on the opposite spoke. Keep doing this as best as you can until the extractor is full.
Then you start the machine using only low power at the beginning and stopping it and reversing the direction, also slowly. Eventually, you increase the speak and let it go for a few minutes one way and then you stop it and reverse direction.
There is a spigot or tap at the base of the extractor. Ensure that it is sealed tight as you work. The extractor might bounce across the room a little as there can be very big weights in it. The better that you have balanced the frames, the less it moves. Repeat, adding all frames until all have been emptied. You can see if quite clearly when this is done.
Next you place a bucket below the honey tap. You add a double strainer over the top of this and then you are getting the honey filtered as it is emerging. This may need to be cleaned from time to time as it gets blocked with bits of wax. Then the magic happens.
The honey can then be kept in an air tight container for the air bubbles to rise overnight. It can be jarred the next day having ensured that all your jars and lids are sterilised. All honey should be labelled even if you are not selling it, according to legislation.
Then the magic happens – jars of honey!!